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Comedian Chonda Pierce plans to "Focus on the Funny" in metro

It’s impossible to get through an interview with Chonda Pierce without giggling.

The comedian certainly lives up to Billboard magazine’s description of her as the “the country comic.”

Pierce, 56, is bringing her “Focus on the Funny” tour to the metro at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5, at Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, 6789 NW 39th Expressway. A self-described PK – preacher’s kid – Pierce often performs shows at churches and other faith-based events across the country.

Between my chuckles and her own laughter, we managed to get through a brief phone interview to talk about her comedic career, documentary-style film “Chonda Pierce:  Laughing in the Dark," and what propelled her down her path as a funny lady.

Here’s what she said:

 

Q: What can fans expect from you on this particular tour? Can you share a little bit about the show?

A: I will be glad to. Every show is different. I’ve been at this for 25 years. I can’t even remember doing any single show the same ever. My favorite mentor in comedy said “Ya’ll come see us, we’ll treat you in so many different ways you’re bound to like one of them.” That’s definitely a Chonda Pierce show, that’s for sure. I’m a place in my career where I have a mound of material in my head but I am so comfortable in my own skin that we’re going to talk about everything. (laughter) We will veer off the page as much as possible.

 

Q: How did you come up with the name for the tour: “Focus on the Funny”?

A: You know, I think in this last year or so, you know I lost my husband about 18 months ago and I just had a movie that came out  about my life, and I think it is time, and I think there is a time in everyone woman’s life,  where I’m going to stop pressuring myself and putting pressure on myself to look perfect, to have the perfect minivan, and have the perfect size hips, and just focus on what is joyful and good and right and fun in my life. And I always say my life is as ordinary as anybody’s so if that works for me, it’s probably going to work for another gal out there. So that’s kind of where my heart is in doing this.  

 

Q: Having said that, do you mind saying how old you are?

A: I am 56, which means I should have retired a long time ago. Everybody keeps buying tickets and interfering in my nap, I can tell you that. (laughter) I keep thinking one of these trips is going to be my last and then, they go, well we sold some tickets in Oklahoma, why don’t you go get on the bus. (laughter) I’m so grateful, I’m just so grateful. I love my job! The gift and the joy of laughter, to a troubled soul and a trouble heart, it is just great medicine.

 

Q:  What do you enjoy most about being a comedian? Is it giving that gift of joy?

A:  Yes, and receiving it. And I’m not the smart one that came up with that. The Bible says  laughter is good like a medicine and it is as much medicine for me as it is for anybody and it’s been that way my whole life. My mother says I was always an optimistic person, especially in the morning. I don’t know, I lost that part of the joy somewhere (laughter), but I am grateful that she passed on to me just this  great optimism, and especially after being through some great tragedies in my life, I still find the joy in laughter and the joy of the Lord.

 

Q: Do you feel like your spiritual roots helped shape your career in some way, or your Southern roots?

A: Well, I can tell you right now, they certainly gave me a lot of material! (laughter) Being a preacher’s kid will give you some material. You either become a preacher’s wife or a comedian. (laughter) Those early days, and I used to talk about it a lot, of growing up on the second row piano side … all preacher’s kids go ‘Oh yeah, we understand it. Be in a certain spot and be in a certain way.’ I find that this (comedy career)  is probably my longest period of rebellion. (laughter)

 

Q: Why did you decide to do “Laughing in the Dark?”

A:  It wasn’t supposed to be so sad. I had gotten an award as the most awarded female comic in history. I’d gotten the most gold records and platinum records. It was funny because even when they gave me that award, I said there’s so many incredible comics out there. I can’t believe this is true. And the man said yes, we did the numbers twice because we never heard of you. (laughter) So you know, I think my team of managers said we should do a documentary of this making of a comic who stayed clean and who has amassed a big following. That’s kind of what they started out doing and in that process my personal life just really took a tough turn. My husband passed away and just the perils of the road, it took a toll on my family. I lost my mother and my husband all within a couple of years. Rather than a documentary of the making of Chonda Pierce, it was the documentary of surviving and how do you do that. How do you do that and still believe that there is a God who loves you and that brings joy and laughter to your life and go out and make other people laugh? How do you do that? That became the gift of “Laughing in the Dark.” Sitting in the movie theater, it blew my mind when it premiered in the theater. It was No. 5 in the country that night. I sat in that movie theater and watched my life, and to be honest, I felt proud of that kid who has been through five different types of death and the ups and downs of public life and yet either I’m crazy or God really is who He says He is and does bring hope and joy and healing to your life. So I’m very blessed that it turned out the way that it did. It’s out in Walmart now and people can buy it. That’s another great thing about going out on tour. I think some people are showing up just to check and see if I’m still alive. (laughter) I love that we care about each other like that. This is my way of traveling the country and thanking people for their prayers, thanking them for their kindness and all that they’ve done to bring laughter to my life. So I’m very lucky and very excited to be back on the road.

 

Q: So, one last question. You got your start by impersonating Minnie Pearl. How did that come about?

A: Yes! The funny thing about it was that my dad was such a strict, strict holiness preacher, we weren’t allowed to dance. I was terrible at it. My boss found a place for me in a show impersonating Minnie Pearl and that would help me skip the big dance number. That would help me for six years. I got to meet her and I think had I never done that, I would never even have thought of the idea of comedy. It was just truly a life-changing time for me in deciding what kind of art form was I going to focus on. And I’m so grateful that comedy found me.   

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Tickets to Pierce’s show at Bethany First Church are $25 for general admission and $45 for VIP admission.

If you would like to see the show, call (800) 965-9324 or go to itickets.com.        

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